Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> Front Matter >> Introduction

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Documents | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription xviii INTRODUCTION
essentially a Jeffersonian Republican interested in
minimizing public debt and in avoiding exploitation of
the public treasury by private institutions, however
plausibly they were presented as essential to the public
welfare. His second major gubernatorial theme,
education, also has a Jeffersonian ring. "Here [in
education]," Hammond wrote, "indeed a liberal
expenditure enriches and adorns, while a narrow econo-
my impoverishes and degrades." He recommended
publicly supported academies in each district of the state
(as opposed to the private schools and public "poor
schools" that then existed). Hammond lost both of his
major battles, but as these two messages make clear, the
antebellum South Carolina ethos was not pervasively
hostile to progress. But the progress had to be of the
South Carolinians' own choosing and in their own
hands. Nor do these messages, closely read, confirm the
portrait of Hammond the haughty aristocrat. They
exhibit as sincere an interest in the welfare of all citizens
as could be found anywhere at the time.
The letter to the Free Church of Glasgow and the two
letters to Thomas Clarkson, most famous of the British
abolitionists, all written while Hammond was Governor,
constitute possibly the ultimate apologia for the slave
system of the Old South. Calhoun, speaking for a
generation cast in the mold of the republicanism of the
Revolution and early national period, did not so much
defend slavery as he defended the idea of an organic
Southern community immune from outside political
meddling. Hammond is clearly within that tradition, but
has diversified his strategy to meet new developments.
Unlike Calhoun, Hammond is willing to employ not only
analysis and authority but description and comparison.
Hammond is aware of the power of propaganda, the rise
of a mass reading public in the urban society of the North